Daniel Suarez

NASCAR America: Sonoma Raceway a challenge for young drivers

Leave a comment

There will be a lot of inexperience this weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

While there will be five “road course ringers” in Sunday’s Cup race, four of them will be making their first starts in the Cup series.

Then you have drivers like rookie Daniel Suarez, who will make his first start on the road course.

He and Ryan Blaney will be starting in Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West race in order to get more track time.

NASCAR America analysts Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton explain why the track that hosts NASCAR’s first road course of the year is such a challenge for young drivers.

“To go there and to have to mount your seat different, shift the gears and use the brake, stay on the track and not make mistakes, it’s a complicated thing,” Biffle said. “It’s a difficult thing for drivers to race for half a season and go do this. The good thing is we road race again not too far after this (at Watkins Glen) which I think is a good thing for the sport and drivers.”

Said Burton, “It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could drive the car. It’s that I didn’t know what the car needed. … When you don’t have a feel for road racing, what is a car supposed to do? Why aren’t I as fast as I need to be? Am I slow in the right (turns)? Am I not getting into the corner deep enough? It’s so difficult to identify what’s not right.”

Watch the rest of the video for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: How Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing work together

2 Comments

In the second year of a technical alliance between Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing, things have been going better for the latter.

Through 15 races, Martin Truex Jr. has two wins for Furniture Row while Joe Gibbs Racing has no wins with the combined efforts of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez.

Truex also has a significant lead over all teams in stage wins with 10 following the race at Michigan. Kyle Busch has the most for JGR with four.

NASCAR America’s analysts discussed how a relationship between the two teams works, especially when the smaller teams seems to be benefiting more.

“You get technical information, you get aerodynamic concepts and thoughts, engineering support, everything is given to you,” said Slugger Labbe. “It’s not for free. It comes at a healthy price, I’m certain. The main thing though is that Joe Gibbs Racing provides the pit crew to this team. So if the 78 or 77 team (Erik Jones) have an issue with a part or a bad pit stop, they don’t worry about it. They hand the parts back to Joe Gibbs Racing, they talk to the pit crew coach and say ‘hey, this jackman had an issue or this tire changer had an issue.’ They solve the problem. What that allows Furniture Row Racing to do is worry about speed.”

Watch the rest of above video for more.

Bump & Run: Should Kyle Busch’s team be frustrated or encouraged?

Leave a comment

Parker Kligerman joins Dale Jarrett, Slugger Labbe, Nate Ryan, Ato Boldon and Carolyn Manno from 5:30 – 7 p.m. today on NASCAR America. Kligerman, Ryan, Steve Letarte and Dustin Long discuss this week’s hot topics.

If you were on Kyle Busch’s team, what would be your mindset? Frustrated the team is winless this season or encouraged by the fact the car has been fast and in position to win races?

Steve Letarte: If I was the crew chief, I’ve been in that position before and I think the important thing is you be honest with your guys. You let them know it’s OK to be frustrated. You should be frustrated. You want to win, you expect to win, you’ve had cars fast enough to win, but you need to temper that frustration by showing them how bad it could be. I’d give them some examples of teams that just don’t have the speed. I’d show them how many laps we’ve led and continue to give them reason to be excited to go back to the race track, but at the same time I’d encourage their frustration because it’s real. I think if you hide from it, it’s just going to get worse.

Parker Kligerman: Simply, keep doing what you’re doing. In my opinion, this is the sole in-house JGR car that has rid itself of the speed woes of earlier this season and has only been held back from victory lane by circumstance. I will go on a limb to say the No. 18 will win at least one race before the regular season is done. 

Nate Ryan: If you are employed by a master motivator such as Joe Gibbs, you will maintain a positive mindset despite all the adversity and agony this season. Busch feasibly could have as many as eight victories this season if execution and events had broken a different way. Gibbs will keep the focus on being in position to win so many races rather than having so many that were lost. The recent improvement of his teammates (Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth ran well at Michigan) lessens the pressure on Busch carrying the banner at Joe Gibbs Racing, and the team’s resurgence will be stamped by a Busch win within the next three weeks.

Dustin Long: To go this long without a win would be frustrating. This team is built to win and expected to do so. Adding to the frustration is how this stretch could hurt this team win a championship. Look at all the playoff points that have slipped away in this winless streak. For as good as this team has been — Busch has led at least double-digit laps in each of the last six races — the No. 18 crew needs to see a reward for all its work. And see it soon.

Name one driver you will be watching in the coming weeks and why.

Steve Letarte: Without a doubt the 88 of Dale Jr. has to be the biggest one. He had a good run at Michigan but didn’t really gain a lot of points and that’s my fear for the 88. I don’t see them pointing their way in. I just don’t see it. There are too many good cars that haven’t won a race. I think the 88 is going to have to look for victory lane. I’ll be keeping my eye on the 88 to see if they can turn that good run at Michigan somehow into a win.

Parker Kligerman: Dale Earnhardt Jr. And no it’s not because of him being so popular. I believe over the next 11 races we will either see a resurgence out of the 88, or we are saying thanks for participating. As the rest, the focus moves onto the playoffs and eventually who will be in the 2017 champion. But, for the 88 fans, there is hope. I can confidently say that at Michigan the 88 was a top-five car. If he was able to get track position in that race (not being the first car on two tires) he would have easily finished in the top-five speed wise. Add in the great recovery through the field in the final couple laps to get to ninth and this momentum is exactly what they need going into two unique races. Lastly, I believe he has actually had one of the best average finishes at Sonoma in the last three years – maybe we are talking about Dale Jr.’s first road course win come Monday? 

Nate Ryan: Matt Kenseth. Is this the last season of his career? His last season at Gibbs? The answers are scant about the veteran’s future, but the 45-year-old has indicated he wants to keep driving, and his results during this upcoming stretch might carry a long way in determining how he closes an impressive career on the premier circuit.

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson. Does he show he is a true championship contender? Can he and his team continue to hold an advantage on the field or will they be caught heading toward the playoffs? All signs point to Larson being a leading title contender at this point, but how often have you seen someone excel in the first half of the season only to fade at the end and not be in the championship hunt?

With 11 races left until the playoffs start, these drivers are outside a playoff spot: Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Kasey Kahne, Ty Dillon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Which of these is most likely to make the playoffs?

Steve Letarte: I think it’s Erik Jones. I think he’s driving the best equipment of that group, going off how fast (teammate) Martin Truex Jr. is. I like Daniel Suarez and the same argument could be made for him, but I think he is just a little down in the experience level of Erik Jones. I don’t know the reason why, whether it’s the fact that Erik Jones had more time to mentally prepare for the Cup Series where Daniel just found out in January. But in that list, I feel the best about Erik Jones finding a way to bounce his way in.

Parker Kligerman: Clint Bowyer, as he has been the fastest of this group consistently. I would say his main foil could come in the form of an Erik Jones win or stretch of solid races. But with Bowyer’s prowess at Sonoma, I think he will start to build solid momentum and propel himself into the playoffs. 

Nate Ryan: Bowyer should be able to scratch his way back into a playoff berth, and Jones has matured quickly enough that the speed might allow stealing a win in the next three months. Short of a Daytona swan song by Earnhardt, I can’t see postseason spots for any of the rest.

Dustin Long: Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race to make the playoffs. It most likely comes at Daytona, but if not there, it will happen before the playoffs begin.

Joe Gibbs Racing announces new role for former crew chief Dave Rogers

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday that former Cup crew chief Dave Rogers will be the technical director for its NASCAR Xfinity Series program.

Rogers had been a Cup crew chief from 2010 to early this season, working with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Daniel Suarez. Rogers won 18 Cup races.

Rogers took a personal leave from the team in March after serving as crew chief for Suarez in the season’s first five races. Scott Graves assumed Rogers’ role with the team.

In his new role, Rogers will work closely with Steve deSouza, JGR’s executive vice president, in all aspects of competition across the organization’s Xfinity program.

“I really appreciate the support I’ve received over the past couple of months allowing me to take care of what I needed to in my personal life,” said Rogers in a statement from the team. “This position really excites me and I’m looking forward to working closely with Steve (deSouza), our crew chiefs and everyone in our XFINITY Series shop on all aspects of competition.”

 

Danica Patrick suffers another hard hit in a season of hits

6 Comments

For the fourth time in the last eight races, Danica Patrick failed to finish because of an accident.

Her car slammed into the inside backstretch wall after a late restart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, marking her second hard hit in the last five races. Her car was destroyed in a crash May 13 at Kansas Speedway (the same wreck that left Aric Almirola with a T5 compression fracture expected to sideline him until next month).

Patrick’s No. 10 Ford was one of five cars involved in the crash with 10 laps left at Michigan.

The field was going down the backstretch when Kevin Harvick was sandwiched between Ryan Blaney on his outside and Daniel Suarez on the inside.

Contact between the three sent Suarez down the track. Darrell Wallace Jr. hit the left rear of Suarez’s car, which made an impact with Patrick that sent her car sliding toward the inside backstretch wall.

“I went into (Turn 1) and got super loose,” Blaney said. “I hate that it took a couple cars out off  (Turn 2). I got really free for some reason. It caught me off guard, which made it look bad. We had a decent enough car to run up there once we got track position.”

Said Patrick: “I knew when there was a caution with about 15 laps to go that there would end up being another one. I had a good run and went for it and just got hit.”

Patrick finished last in 37th for her sixth DNF, five because of crashes. Blaney, who won last week at Pocono, finished 25th after running as high as second. Harvick placed 14th. Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 19th in his second Cup start as a substitute driver for the injured Amirola.

The crash was the latest hard hit for Patrick in a Cup career that has been full of them (recently documented here by NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan).

At one point this year, Patrick exited three races in four weeks — Bristol, Talladega and Kansas — because of wrecks.

Sunday’s accident marked the end to a tough week for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, who made negative headlines with a viral Facebook Live video that captured her lecturing fans at Pocono after they booed her for not signing autographs.

Patrick later admitted that she “had a moment,” and that she should have just continued walking.

That was in the midst of reports that Patrick may not be with Stewart-Haas Racing after 2017.

Following her finish at Michigan, Patrick is 30th in the points standings. She is two spots and 12 points behind Almirola, who has missed the last four points races.

MORE: Nate Ryan looks at looming Silly Season movement.